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Thursday, 27 October 2016

An Unusual Lords of Olympus Review

So, I've just yesterday been informed of the publication of an interview I gave. An unusual interview, about Lords of Olympus.

Mainly, it's unusual because of the interviewer! He's not an RPG blogger or forum poster. Not an RPG industry guy at all.

Also, he looks like this:

This is Hercules Invictus; afficionado of Greek Mythology, Myth in general, and the heroic journey. Motivational speaker, 'olympian path shaman', and professional e-radio host, as well as Hercules cosplayer (and Samson, from time to time).

Obviously, Hercules was interested in LoO because of the subject of the game. I did not meet him through any kind of occult background (we run in, shall we say, extremely different circles); in fact, he contacted Precis Intermedia asking them for a review copy and to interview the author.

So, if you want to see an interview about me from a non-hobbyist (though he told me later that he has in fact played RPGs), and a non-hobbyist that goes around in a Hercules outfit, check out the "Mythic Gaming Interview: the RPGPundit"!


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Poker + H&H's Chestnut

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Classic Rant: Arrows of Indra: The Importance of Family in Old-school Play

In a lot of old-school D&D games, player characters are defined as lone operatives; many games don't bother to consider much, if any, of the PC's family background. You kind of get the feeling at times that the entire party is composed of either orphans or disinherited family black-sheep. There are of course many exceptions to this in actual campaigns, but there are relatively few old-school rule-sets (or new-school rulesets, for that matter) that bother to worry a great deal about the PC's family. That's what Pendragon is for after all, right? Or, if you want a darker and more dysfunctional take, Amber.

The thing is, in Arrows of Indra at least, the setting places enormous significance on family. Its a huge part of the Indian setting's culture, and its a huge part of the background emulation of the Mahabharata story, which is ultimately a story about family.

In the Bharata Kingdoms, family is extremely important, the last of a scale of social networking that goes Caste-Clan-Family. Each is as important as the last; and a man without family, like a man without clan, or a man without caste, is a man without any proper place in Bharata society and deprived of an instant network of contacts and support that can be vital to managing everyday life in the world.

Now, as a GM, you might choose to ignore all that, and of course that's fine. You can certainly run AoI the same way you might run a Greyhawk game, and just ignore all those details about family or clan (or even caste, if you care to). Maybe your players are suspicious of including it, because they fear it will just give them a big load of hassles they're not really interested in. Maybe you (the GM) are suspicious of including it, because you worry that you'll end up getting burned by a bunch of background-detail stuff from overeager players.
In any case, I would still suggest you consider it; it is possible to include family in your campaign in ways that makes it useful and interesting to players and GM alike, enriching your party's connection to the setting and the world.

This is why the Arrows of Indra rules has mechanics right at character creation for determining the makeup of a (human) PC's family. And just what he gets in the rolls can make a big difference to how he starts out. A PC might end up with a dead father and as the oldest man in the family, in which case, in Bharata society, he is the head of his immediate family. This means that on the one hand, he owns all the family property and has authority to make all the decisions for the family. On the other, it means he is responsible for the maintenance of everyone in his family. But its feasible in this system for a 1st level PC to start out the game with a farm or manor. 

On the other hand, the PC might be a minor son with a living father or elder brother; this leaves the PC free and clear of any of the hassles of supporting anyone, but it puts them under the authority of their father (or brother). The head of their family is expected to morally and financially support the PC, but he can also decide whether (and even who!) the PC should marry, to give one example. Its unlikely a paterfamilias would stop a younger son from going out adventuring; in the heroic age this brings prestige and potential fortune to the entire family, its one less mouth to feed, and it gets the PC out of everyone's hair; but should junior end up hitting it big as a major hero, dad or big-brother will want to use his kid (or kid brother) as tool to gain influence in the clan or the kingdom, and improve the whole family's lot through marriage and alliances.

In Appendix I we get rules for income from lands or profit from businesses; and the expectation is that if your PC gets land or businesses (either through adventuring or by virtue of being the paterfamilias) it will be his family that will help him to run it. A PCs brothers might end up becoming adventurers in their own right, and a clever GM might even allow these siblings to act as backup PCs for the player character should his current character die or retire, creating some continuity in the campaign. A PCs sisters will potentially be married to other NPCs of interest that could also form part of the PC's network; if the PC himself inherits the family seat while his younger sisters are still of marriageable age, he might even want to use them to form alliances by marriage to important NPCs (of course, within caste, and with the approval of his clan; but the clan will generally approve of any choice that helps bring the clan prestige). A PC party might even cement their alliance by intermarriage of sisters or daughters, turning the party into one big extended family business. Appendix I also has rules governing marriage and offspring.

A GM can (and should) tailor just how important the role of family is in his campaign; they can be largely in the background, or they can play a central part. You might want to introduce the elements of PC family-connections gradually, allowing the interconnections to develop organically. 

My best advice on this whole subject is that a good GM should avoid the "girlfriend in the refrigerator" type of syndrome, where he makes the players feel that their families are nothing but a liability: NPCs who are only there to get captured, killed, threatened, or to end up screwing up constantly and costing the PC time, money or prestige. There are more clever ways to use family. Show the players how the PC having a family, and paying attention in the game to family, will end up benefiting from this, and gaining advantages that those PCs who neglect their family will not. Dad or Uncle Rajesh might be able to set the PCs up with the local clan chief, or might know someone in the city watch, or might be able to tell the PCs about which Siddhis are trustworthy. A family that is close to the PC will shelter them and try to support them when the PCs are going through a bad spell.

This isn't to say the family can't also be a source of drama; just be careful that it isn't too much of a "21st century drama"; younger siblings should not be rebellious in the TV-teen-drama sense, they know what's good for them too, after all. Only a particularly abominable person would really reject the family rules, so the NPC siblings of the player's character shouldn't be constantly doing so. Create outside threats to a PC's family too if you like, but make it a part of the organic sandbox flow of the setting: a PCs family might live in an area being over-run by the Maghadan empire, for example, or if the PCs join Krishna's band, then King Kansa might send out Rakshasa mercenaries to exact retribution on family members living close enough to the city-state of Mathura. But what threats there are, the PC's family shouldn't just be hapless victims in need of rescue, but rather make the threats something that the family deals with together. Resist, in other words, the impulse to make the PC the only competent or clever member of his family.

And really, all of what I said above can apply just as easily to any other old-school setting as much as it applies to Arrows of Indra. Family was just as important a part of the fabric of Medieval European society as it was to Epic Indian society. So even if you're not running AoI, consider what's been written above.

Of course, if you haven't picked up Arrows of Indra yet, this might be a good time to give it a look. 


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Solitario + Stockebbye's Bull's Eye Flake

(Originally Posted September 5, 2013)

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Break Monday: Crazy Historical Politics Edition

As insane as the 2016 US Presidential elections have been, there are some other political campaigns in history that were similarly crazy. Were any of these more nuts than Trump v. Clinton?

In this week's article, I look at 10 Political Campaigns (Almost?) As Crazy As This One!  Because if we don't learn lessons from history, we're destined to repeat it.

If you like the article, please share it!


Currently Smoking: Raleigh Hawkbill + Image Virginia

Monday, 24 October 2016

DCC Backstage: The Backstagening 5.5!

The second part of the epic back-room conversation going on among the players of my spectacular DCC campaign! Check it out:

Morris: Just imagine... a conversation between Chu & Whoom.

Bill: Nightmare.

Fishman/Hoom: Hoom.

Chu/Shebubu: Hoom? You know, your mutant.

Morris: Hoom? Your character!

Fishman/Hoom: Keep doing it. I'll have my revenge.

Chu/Shebubu: You should chill, my friend.


Morris: I don't know what happened to you but I can certainly try to help you in taking your revenge or whatever.

Chu/Shebubu: Well, what happens, happens it's all in His great plan.

Fishman/Hoom: You fucking deserve each other.

Morris: It was my great plan, yeah.

Chu/Shebubu: Yep, we are both humans, he's my Hugga.

Morris: Oh, you mean... forget it.

Fishman/Hoom: I said "fucking deserve" not "deserve fucking".

Chu/Shebubu: Man, way to ruin dreams.

(Pundit added Dwarven Kidnapper to the Conversation)

Pundit: I'll note I think someone left a bag of dice at my place.

Fishman/Hoom: Does it look like it was ripped by a Halfling?  No, I have mine kangaroo's scrotum in my bag.

Drunken Master/Axe-bard: is it black? maybe it's mine

Pundit: Possibly. I don't remember now. Too lazy to check. If your dice are missing, they're the ones that are here.

Drunken Master/Axe-Bard: I'm too lazy to check right now too.  We will figure it out some time, when I need them and I don't have them.

Fishman/Hoom: IT'S A LAZY-OFF

Pundit: Mainly for Dwarven Kidnapper: This is the very long thread from theRPGsite with the archive of past adventures. It's not obligatory reading, but if you want to look feel free. The archive only keeps a record of adventures played up to one full year ago.

And for a more updated glimpse at stuff that happened very recently in the campaign, here's the last two gaming logs:
"DCC Campaign: No Cleric Can Fix What's Wrong With Me"

"DCC Campaign: We're Injury Besties"

Dwarven Kidnapper: ok, i'll read it, thanks. Is this Axe-Bard's Lute-Axe?


Bill: We totally need to Mend that luteaxe.

Dwarven Kidnapper: aye, you're right my witty companion, that's an axe who must be fixed.

Chu/Shebubu: Who is going to fix it?

Bill: Bill.

Chu/Shebubu: Oh, right, you could do that. Like reverse-destroy things.

Bill: Yes. And I roll a D24 for mending.  Need to get one year in the fire plane or the magic plane to increase affinity.

Dwarven Kidnapper: If u let me "take with me" a fine dwarven lass i could wait 1 year...

Bill: Wanna come with to the fire or magic plane?

Dwarven Kidnapper: a fire dwarf who throws fire axes would be nice to be, could i become one there?

Bill: Not that I can think of, you would need some magical type of fire axe.

Chu/Shebubu: G.O.D. always finds a way.

Dwarven Kidnapper: maybe if next time we got ourselves a demon couldn't we try to capture it and use it... i don't know perhaps doing some weird soul magic thingy and make it a fire demon axe? it's that a possibility?

Chu/Shebubu: Nah. You need to know how to make magic swords.

Bill: and guess who is the only one even near that level of wizardry? But does not have the spell...

Chu/Shebubu: And either way, I am not going to go and feed him and take it out to walks.

Bill: Exactly.

Dwarven Kidnapper: A demon pet sounds nice...

Bill: we already have a potential high maintenance demon idol; plus a demon pet, sounds very expensive. Vet, food, chip, toys, flee medicine, rabies shots, all that stuff. And washing, who will wash a fire demon? I know I'm not!

Dwarven Kidnapper: We could get more people to do it for us! I know a way or two.. it's easy. And cheap!

Bill: if we get one, he is all yours, but if he turns on you, I'm gonna be obliged to say: I told you so.

Chu/Shebubu: And then again I am the only one that can potentially bind it if I ever get to level 3, But then again, I am probably going to die around the next 30 minutes If I continue the Goodie-two-shoes cleric act.

Bill: I never killed any cleric, just for his personality...Actually, I never killed a cleric, period

Chu/Shebubu: Not saying you.

Bill: Well, there seems to be a very murderous thief among us. Are you referring to him?

Chu/Shebubu: Two to be exact.

Bill: Oh yeah, the sniper thief. But I doubt that one wants to kill you just for being a cleric.

Chu/Shebubu: He wants to kill because he haves no chill : ^)
Doesn't matter, loving this cleric either way.

Bill: and as a standard, clerics are quite annoying as fuck.

Fishman/Hoom: Related to your last article:

That's it for today! Stay tuned for more later.


Currently Smoking: Lorenzetti Poker + Solani Aged Burley Flake

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Wild West Campaign Update: A Death For Five Dollars

In today's session, my players figured out the basic price to get the least-fortunate citizens of Dodge to do almost anything: five dollars.

It started with a gift of $5, actually, to one of the unfortunates of the town, which led to a series of events that caused a wealthy retired US Army Major looking to buy a stake in Dodge's political class to end up confronted with James "Dog" Kelly, the figurehead-leader of the political group known as "The Gang".

(that's Kelly on the left; on the right, an unknown associate, possibly "Kid Taylor". Note the dog. Not pictured (possibly taking the photograph) is Kelly's pet bear "Paddy")

I say a figurehead because the real mastermind was Bat Masterson.

This led to the arrest of (Player Character) "Kid Taylor", for beating a Mexican near to death, and led to a proxy-duel between (Player Character) Tom "bad luck" Miller and a man the Major hired named Stan Shin, who was said to have killed 3 men in a single shootout in Deadwood.  Shin initially wanted nothing to do with it, as he was busy getting drunk and threatening people all over town. But then Wyatt Earp humiliated the fuck out of him, showed Shin for a coward and threw him violently out of the Long Branch Saloon. And Shin, desperate to try to recover his lost reputation (now clearly based on what must have just been a very lucky gunfight), accepted to duel for the Major.  Shin shot first but was so shaky he missed, and Miller shot him down with one bullet.

Meanwhile, some of the PCs, seeing what $5 could do, started to throw them around like they were candies (which tells you how successful at least some of the PCs have been in Dodge in just a year and a half).

This adventure also saw a high-stakes poker game at the Long Branch. The Mormon Gambler tried his luck but didn't do all that well (though he didn't lose his shirt, at least).  He did catch a certain cheating gambler named Tom White, though.  White had already managed to wipe out one of the participants in the game, the young and tempestuous Spike Kenedy, son and heir of the ranching magnate Miflin Kenedy.   Deputy Young managed to get White out of there and into a jail cell post-haste (to avoid White's getting lynched); only to later be surprised to find a fancy Topeka lawyer showed up to help him get the charges dismissed and give him a ticket out of town.

That's it for today. As of this adventure, the '77 cattle drive has come to an end, but the vital Dodge City elections are only two months away, and things are heating up as winter approaches in Dodge.


Currently Smoking: Neerup Bent Billiard + Image latakia

Saturday, 22 October 2016

DCC Backstage: The Backstagening pt. 5.0

Ready for some more inane chatter from my DCC group?  Lately, the campaign has been so good, and the conversation about it between sessions so non-stop, that I can't really keep up.  Here's a slightly edited version of the last while.

Chu/Shebubu: I don't remember Bill finally accepting his trans-racialness but I am OK with it.


Bill: By now Bill does not give a fuck about his looks, unless he gets to be an elf again.  And even then, bill will probably not give a fuck. Right now Bill just wants his staff and to know who the fuck is the wizard guy in the nether zone and bring him back. And that's just grazing the idea that bill ever gave a fuck about anything after ted's death.

Chu/Shebubu: Well, he did have a gigantic hate boner for, Sandy, Dr Theobald and Akbasha.

Morris: And destroying Tholia, don't forget that.

Chu/Shebubu: Nah, Bill just goes to places and fucks them up, He just left Tholia in the backburner.

Morris: But that's a problem, because if we kill that 1000th minotaur, that weird wizard will be immortal.

Bill: Hate and giving a fuck is different.

Morris: And that's immoral... because *?

Chu/Shebubu: Eh, it doesn't really matter if he is or isn't immortal.

Bill: Immortal and unkillable is very different.

Morris: I don't want to accomplish his fucking dream

Chu/Shebubu: I mean if we really cared about people with immortality we would go and try to stop the Snake King in the southern continent so he would stop cutting the heads of kings.

Morris: What the actual fuck?

Bill: That's still a thing?


Bill: We could totally do that after Coolland.

Chu/Shebubu: Who knows, it has been like 2 months since the last information we got from him, but sadly, I don't think anyone that knew about him is alive.

Bill: We could go places and be like a pacifying force.

Morris: Meh, I can wait, killing spontaneous minotaurs is fun.

Bill: Especially when not being the minotaur's main target.

Morris: I mean, if we stop these minotaurs.. I'll miss them.

Chu/Shebubu: Yeah, I think we should leave the minotaurs for now until we solve the Bill staff thing, which would send us to that convocation where we will probably fuck everything up again.

Morris: I'm sure

Chu/Shebubu: I actually forgot about asking Palombo.

Morris: Yay fucking everything up is fun!

Drunken Master/Axe-Bard: fucking everything up is not what we want, but it's what we do.

Chu/Shebubu: Yep, byproduct of our adventures.

Morris: Hey, yes I want

Bill: Collateral Damage. You don't make an omelette without breaking eggs. 

Morris: Unless your eggs are already broken. I only have on testicle left thanks to the minotaurs.

Chu/Shebubu: They haven't really hit you at all.

Morris: Not after meeting you.

Bill: Well, smart-pants guerrilla. You don't make an omelette without scrambling them eggs!

Morris: You are my meat shields. I mean, best friends!

Bill: Someone wants the warrior to take his remaining testicle...

Morris: That's... that's fair enough.

Bill: That might turn down your sex drive a bit and make you less creepy. And would add a safety against halfling attacks.  We would have a eunuch in the party, which we never had so far.  Yeah fuck it, let's castrate the thief.

Chu/Shebubu: More diversity in the party is better. :D

Bill: If you become only a small percentage as smart as Varis, Tholia has no chance! I'm sure we can crowd fund your complete castration, imagine all the likes you would get back at the capital of cooland.



Currently Smoking: Brigham Anniversary Pipe + Image Latakia

Friday, 21 October 2016

Classic Rant: Lords of Olympus: Scrying And Mortal Cabals

In the classical world, I mean in the real historical world of the Greeks and Romans, many forms of what we might term “magic” were either looked upon poorly or directly forbidden. But divination, which could be said to include both attempts to perceive the future by signs (“augury”), attempts to receive visions of other people or places in the present, and communication with spirits (or even gods), or even the spirits of the dead, in order to receive information and tutelage, was considered a highly honored science.

At the same time, the ancients were quite clear about these sciences being highly complicated, and not something that just anyone could practice. It was understood that there were both frauds who were clearly fake diviners, and also differing degrees of skilled fortune-tellers, some who had much more talent or expertise than others. Some of it was believed to depend upon benediction from the Gods (and tied to formal priesthood or initiation in mystery cults), while in other cases there was a suggestion that bloodline could influence one’s raw talent at the art.

In Lords of Olympus the Scrying Power is something that could be seen as the “real” or “ideal” version of this power that mortals can only barely touch upon. The power-levels related to using Scrying pair up nicely with this, so that mortals can only receive “the vaguest glimpses”, while the gods can gain the most clear visions. Likewise, in terms of communication, the gods have sufficient power to be able to use Scrying as an inter-dimensional communication system with one another, while mortals can only accomplish the same with extreme difficulty.

The obvious use in a LoO campaign for scrying is to allow PCs to communicate with each other and with NPCs, and (in its Advanced version) even create a magical Gate between themselves and where/who they are scrying with for a shortcut in traveling the multiverse.

But thinking about the above setting-information, a number of interesting ideas arise; its amusing to think that Scrying could also be used in a campaign as a plot device, where Mortals may try to contact a PC as part of mortal magic-use. 

Imagine, for example, that a cabal of mortal mages might end up trying to use Scrying as a way to communicate with an immortal to gain said deity as a powerful patron. Or, perhaps in a more sinister motive, to use a young godling for who-knows-what unspeakable blood-rites, or perhaps some kind of a breeding program, or to sacrifice to some supposedly powerful entity.

Its even possible that this could be something weaponized in a Modern or futuristic world; where a government agency aware of the existence of the gods and the viability of magic could try to use Scrying as a way to gather information on these powerful non-human beings they don’t worship as gods, but consider potentially world-threatening beings that need to be studied and perhaps destroyed to protect the security of their civilization!

In general in a Lords of Olympus games, mortals are rarely considered powerful enough to be a real threat to even starting-level Olympian PCs. But it can be a challenging and interesting experiment for a GM to try to see just how dangerous, powerful, or influential he could make a fully-mortal Secret Order, Cabal, or Government Agency (without relying on going beyond the “rules” of the game or involving actual divine agents). In my own experience, its the type of thing players (particularly experienced players) will rarely expect.


Currently Smoking: Italian Redbark + Argento Latakia

(Originally Posted August 20, 2013)